Quinton Spain calls himself “Mr. Undrafted” on his Twitter account, and he has a coat with the same label.
You can bet he’s not planning to shed his underdog mentality now that he has earned his first big contract in the NFL.
“I’m always going to keep that undrafted role,” Spain said after signing a three-year, $15 million contract with the Buffalo Bills on Monday. “That’s my mindset.”
The 27-year-old guard entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2015 and started 48 games over four seasons for the Tennessee Titans. A soft free-agent market last year led him to sign a one-year, $2 million deal with the Bills.
Spain’s one-year bet on himself paid off. Now he’s entrenched as the Bills’ left guard.
“There’s always more to prove,” Spain said on a conference call with reporters. “When I came in undrafted, my mindset was to be the last offensive lineman out there playing. I’m going to keep trying to shoot for that. That’s my motivation. However long it takes, that’s how long I want to be in the NFL.”
Eighteen guards were drafted in 2015. Six already are out of the NFL. Spain has played more games than all but one of the 18 draftees. Laken Tomlinson, drafted No. 28 overall by Detroit, has played 79 games for the Lions and San Francisco 49ers.
Spain, a 6-foot-4, 330-pounder, fit the powerful, physical style that offensive line coach Bobby Johnson wanted to bring to the Bills’ front five.
“He wants big guys who can move and be physical,” Spain said of Johnson. “I feel like I adapt to that. He wanted me here. I told him I’d come here if we get the deal done. We got the deal done.
“I got the physical play when I was in Tennessee. They ran a power scheme when (Mike) Mularkey became the head coach. We ran power blocking scheme. You had to be physical. He gave me an opportunity to start my last six games in my first year, and I just took it from there and ran with it.”
Spain’s experience also was a stabilizing force on the Bills’ line last season. He’s adept at recognizing defensive line twists and stunts and making adjustments. Spain was not responsible for a sack last season.
“I still have things to work on,” Spain said. “I’m excited to get back out there and let Bobby coach me techniques in what I need to do and just learn and get better at everything I do.”
Spain’s return means all five starters on the line will be back in 2020.
“It’s a new year, a second year, two years in the same system with the same group,” Spain said. “The chemistry is there, now all we gotta do now is keep it up and take it to the next level.
“I feel like the group coming back, I feel like most everybody got the salty taste about the playoff game. And I feel like they’re going to come back for OTAs and hit the ground running.”
Spain’s contract calls for $4.5 million in guaranteed money, and a $1.5 million signing bonus.
Spain said the team bond he feels was a big factor in wanting to return to the Bills.
“I feel comfortable,” he said before listing his reasons for appreciating the Bills. “The fans here are crazy about Buffalo. What (Sean) McDermott’s got going on and the system, the stuff he wants us to do, and the teammates and the work ethic they have, and how we practice and how we show up for games and how we play. I adapt to that and I want to stay to it. We have something special here.”
Spain is in the prime of his career. He turns 28 in August.
“It took me awhile to get to this contract, but I had to use it as motivation,” he said. “I know I’m better than what people think I am, so I have to keep proving it. The Buffalo Bills saw I can prove it. They gave me the deal, and I’ve still got stuff to prove. So I’m just happy they gave me an opportunity to continue my career here.”